Posts Tagged ‘ Comic Art Fans ’

The Man Who Loved Marvel: Pierre Comtois Charts An Empire

Today Panel Surfing gets to chat with the author of one of my favorite books on the history of Marvel Comics. Pierre Comtois wrote an endearing study of the early years of the Marvel Age in Marvel Comics In The 1960’s and discusses that book along with news of the sequel.

Jason Versaggi: Where did your passion for the source material of your book come from?

Pierre Comtois: Believe it or not, that’s a more difficult question to answer than you might think. The easy answer is that I grew up on them when I was a kid in the mid to late 1960s. An older boy in the neighborhood introduced me to Marvel comics around 1964…the first comic I ever bought was Spider-man #14…and I was hooked. After that began long years of trying to scrape enough money together to buy the 6 or 7 Marvels I wanted every month. At first it was the characters and the stories that grabbed me but as I became more discerning, I began to differentiate among the artists and soon, I could tell them apart and had my favorites. In high school, my tastes began to shift away from Marvel’s flagship titles to the more eclectic stuff led by Conan the Barbarian. As the years passed, my enthusiasm for the medium never diminished so that to this day I find that I enjoy rereading the comics in my collection as much as I ever did. However, my interest in the latest comics has slowed down since the 1980s and I find little these days that appeals to me the way comics did from the 1960s to the 1980s. My enthusiasm was such that I was still in high school when I first decided that I wanted to write a book about Marvel Comics. I’d written a paper for a psychology class about how comics weren’t just for kids anymore and that, I think, proved to be the catalyst. When I got the paper back from the teacher, every bit of white space on the title page was covered in his red ink scribblings gushing about my paper and promising a high grade for it! I got a vague idea then about maybe expanding the theme of that paper into a whole book. Not that things turned out that way, only that it was a catalyst.

JV: When were you first exposed to comics and more specifically Marvel?

Pierre: Although this neighborhood kid introduced me to Marvel, I recall that he had a stack of comics that included as many DCs as Marvels. Forget now if he recommended the Marvels over the DCs or if that was my own taste/choice…he probably did. Later, I had a cousin who loved comics too but was less discerning in his tastes. He bought everything from Thor to Sad Sack and I was able to catch up on titles like the Metal Men and Sgt Rock by borrowing stuff from him to read. One thing I did learn through that reading though was that DC didn’t do it for me!

JV: Were comics a big part of your youth and did they influence or foster a love of reading?

Pierre: When I was a kid, a lot of my time revolved around comics in one way or another. Specifically, I had to find ways to earn the money I needed to buy my favorite comics. I started by collecting returnable bottles and later walking a paper route to earn money I needed. At first I had a friend who was just as interested as I was but he soon got out of comics so I was left alone to scour my hometown on my trusty bike going from store to store looking for all the issues that I knew came out in a certain week. Although I’d developed an interest in reading before comics (I devoured the Tom Swift and Tarzan series, read a lot of books on WWII and my former comics reading buddy and I still shared an interest in science fiction) what they did was introduce me to new literary avenues to pursue such as Robert E. Howard from the Conan comic, Bram Stoker from Tomb of Dracula, or Sax Rohmer from Master of Kung Fu. 

JV: I often say Stan Lee is the 1b to Walt Disney’s 1a for who had the greatest contribution to American Pop Culture. What similarities do you see between the two imagineers? What made Stan such a visionary in the medium and how did he create such non-story related significance with the fans?

Pierre: Stan and Disney make for an interesting comparison in that both created entertainment empires based on creations from their own imaginations. But I’m not sure if the comparison can go too far. Disney seemed driven by his desire to create and use the medium of film to give his creations as wide a venue as possible. Stan on the other hand, hasn’t struck me as being terribly interested in writing comics before the Marvel age. I think it was just a job to him before that. His real interest lay in more acceptable media such as book publication…this feeling of media inferiority seemed to stay with him even into later life when he absconded to Hollywood as soon as he could get away. In between of course, he helped to create the Marvel universe as we know it. Obviously he had the talent for it and his skill as an editor and art editor was an indispensable part of that success. However, a key factor in his success was a chumminess with readers and the ability of not taking what Marvel was doing too seriously, attitudes that he likely picked up from EC Comics. Stan emulated that making fans feel like they were part of a special club whose members were in the know.

JV: If Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko were the innovators of the Marvel   Universe who were the most important artists doing the yeoman’s work? Who was next most indispensible to Stan in constructing the Marvel Universe?

Pierre: For the early years, that’s easy: Don Heck! But beyond those early years there were artists like John Buscema, John Romita, and Gene Colan who no doubt helped but I think, were less involved in outright innovation than Kirby and Ditko were. The real indispensable man was a writer, Roy Thomas. I think he even more than Stan, took this new Marvel universe seriously as a coherent, interconnected entity. Where Stan could be a bit lackadaisical about continuity, Roy made it an overriding concern. He wrote stories to fill gaps in the history as much as to entertain in their own right. He brought a serious, deliberate intent to keeping things straight where Stan may never have thought too much about it.

JV: Had he not died in that tragic train accident, would Joe Maneely have been one of the founding creators of the Marvel Age of Comics? Would his style have lent itself to this new universe?

Pierre: That’s hard to say, at least to my mind. His style was nothing like Kirby or Ditko’s. But if Heck could adapt then why not Maneely? But to me, his style seemed overly rendered, dark, and ultimately stiff. There didn’t seem to be too much attempt at breaking out of the six panel grid etc. So I don’t know how Maneely would have fit in. Maybe he would have been sidelined to the dying western comics or become mainly an inker. 

JV: You examine nearly every major issue and story in the Silver Age of Marvel in Marvel Comics In The 1960’s. What were your top 5 favorite stories?

Pierre: My top five storylines were Amazing Spider-Man #s 17-19 because it encompassed everything that made Marvel so fascinating to a kid in the 1960s; FF #s 48-50 for the Galactus trilogy that opened up the Marvel universe to well…the whole universe!; FF #51 because it expressed all of the high flown ideals that were embodied in Marvel in the 1960s, it’s optimism about people and the country; Sgt. Fury #13 because it was an epic length but single issue story that perfectly captured Cap and Bucky with art and story by Stan the Man and King Kirby!; Avengers #32-33 because it featured Don Heck pencils and inks on a cautionary story that was quintessentially Marvel…something you’d never see the competition doing at the time; FF Annual #6: “Let There Be Life!” whose message again encapsulated Marvel’s values including that of respect for all human life, no matter how small or helpless. A message that seems wholly absent from today’s comics. 

JV: A number of years ago Roy Thomas’ Alter Ego Magazine looked at what might have been had Jack Kirby continued to draw The Incredible Hulk past issue #6. Why do you think the Hulk failed to catch on with readers right away? What makes the character such an enduring creation today?

Pierre: I think it failed in those first six issues because neither Stan nor Jack had a clear idea of what to do with the character. His personality and behavior changed with nearly every story. Later, when Stan teamed with Ditko on the strip for Tales to Astonish, ground rules were established that gave readers points of reference that they could rely upon from issue to issue. Also, the serial format helped new stories progress naturally from previous ones. Aside from that, the character is such a limited one, I can’t for the life of me figure out why it has continued to be popular all these years!  

JV: Who is your favorite Marvel character or title to come out of the 1960’s Marvel Age of Comics?

Pierre: Spider-Man. When I was a kid, I immediately identified with his loner status and his apparently endless list of problems! The strip also had many interesting supporting characters (including the Torch who was far more interesting here than he was over at the FF!), real world problems, colorful villains, and intricate plotting. 

JV: In your book Marvel Comics In The 1960’s one of the Jack Kirby devices you took about is his use of the larger 4 panel page. What do you think is his most important contribution to the medium for advancing a story?

Pierre: In terms of Hollywood, Kirby was about 40 years ahead of his time. For example, today’s movies are shot and edited at a much faster pace than they were in the golden age of Hollywood. The viewer isn’t allowed to hardly catch his breath, pick up plot points, or get to know the characters before the action barrels along to a thrilling, often over the top FX laden climax. That’s all pure silver age Kirby who did the same thing. It was what differentiated his comics from those of Ditko or Heck say. Kirby’s characters were constantly in motion, his stories never stopped long enough for character development of sub-plots; they carried you along like a roller coaster to their final, furious conclusion!

JV: I have always had an affinity for some of the lesser known contributions to the Marvel Age such Sgt. Fury and the trio of Western heroes. What do you think about some of the unsung creators from this period?

Pierre: If you’re looking for some comment on unsung artists of the Marvel age I would point out the number of fill in artists who worked on the Giant-Man strip in Astonish. Dick Ayers and Bob Powell are two that come to mind. They weren’t very good…or at least not on super heroes, but I do have a soft spot for the relatively awkward jobs they turned on the strip. Or Dick Ayers and Carl Burgos on the Torch strip in Strange Tales.

JV: What can you share about your upcoming follow-up book to Marvel Comics In The 1960’s?

Pierre: It’ll be called Marvel Comics in the 1970s: An Issue by Issue Field Guide to a Pop-Culture Phenomenon and will follow exactly the same format as the first volume. It will cover what I’ve termed the twilight years that extend through the 1970s an era in which the flagship titles took a back seat to newer more offbeat features. Actually, the whole project was conceived as a single book but the publisher, TwoMorrows Pubs, decided it would have been too big so divided it at roughly the half way point which was the end of the grandiose years. The new volume will be available in May, 2011.

JV: Will there be a third installment of your study of Marvel Comics?

Pierre: No, this is it.

JV: Are you planning on ever tackling the Distinguished Competition?

Pierre: No. Besides not being very enthusiastic about the subject, I don’t feel I’m qualified.

 JV: How have you come up with such great art and images for your books? Do you own any original comic art?

Pierre: All credit for the images has to go to TwoMorrows and its staff, particularly layout man supreme Rich Fowlkes who has been great to work with. I made up a dream list of the kinds of illustrations I’d like to see in the book from Marvel pages to historical photos and he’s bent over backwards to accommodate me. And if he can’t find what I want, he makes his own suggestions that usually turn out to be exactly what I would have picked. Unfortunately, I don’t own any original art…I’ve preferred to spend my hard earned shekels on buying the comics themselves! The new book though, will feature quite a few original art pages reproduced from the pencils.

JV: As we move further away from the printed comic book and more and more is available digitally to a wider, younger audience do you think that one day comics – especially the Silver Age Marvel canon – will be studied as a truly great contribution to our literary culture and break through the pop culture barrier?

Pierre: I used to think so but not so much anymore (see that high school psychology paper I mention above). I think it’s limited by the very nature of its format i.e. little pictures accompanied by word balloons. There was a brief instant of time in the 1980s with Frank Miller’s Batman Returns and Alan Moore’s Watchmen when it seemed the outside world was about to embrace comics as an art form suitable for adults, but that Prague Spring seems to have fallen by the wayside. Today, the comic stores are flooded with pretty much juvenile fare more suitable for youths but not for grownups. Silver age comics, particularly Marvel, I think will retain a certain pop culture cache, but beyond that, I don’t think anyone is going to take Marvel Zombies or Crisis VI very seriously. 

You can keep up with Pierre online here and be sure to look for Pierre’s new book Marvel Comics In The 1970’s this May from TwoMorrows. Don’t forget to pick up the first installment Marvel Comics In The 1960’s now to get all caught up on the story thus far. Excelsior!


The Amazing Josh Medors

I first discovered the work of Josh Medors sometime in 2005. He had been a rising indie horror comics star but was doing some truly beautiful hyper-detailed commissions and I just fell in love with his work. His style – which he told me in an interview with Comic Art Fans several years ago – was influenced by Todd McFarlane and Greg Capullo. I see some Dave Finch in him but he has a look all his own. He loves classic horror and it shows in his work. Josh has worked on Frank Frazetta’s Swamp Demon and Sorcerer titles for Image, Runes of Ragnan, Willow Creek and 30 Days of Night.

The Only Publsihed Marvel Work by Josh Medors - cover to Vengeance Of The Moon Knight #8

The sad thing about this amazing talent is that there just isn’t enough of his work out there for fans to enjoy. Josh has battled a very serious and rare form of cancer for the past 3 years and was even the focus of a special HERO Initiative benefit auction to raise money for his fight with cancer. The disease first slowed then stopped his ability to work completely. Recently Josh was at Chicago Con spending time with fans and sketching for them as best as he could. His fighting spirit has not been diminished.

If you would like to see a sample of the work of Josh Medors you can check out this special tribute gallery to his work from his man fans. His gallery was recently mentioned in Scoop as well. You can also follow Josh on twitter and if you would like to score a piece of his work you can contact his art rep Dave Kopecki. I strongly encourage it. You can also just send on your best wishes to Josh or just tell him what a fantastically gifted artist he really is…which if you just check out his work I’m sure you’ll agree.

Where Does Art Come From?

This is a little birds & bees for original art newbies who might just be getting into art or graduating from comics scene to the wonderful word of original comics art. It is rough waters to navigate and can be a little intimidating before you get your feet wet. So here’s a little primer for new fans who want to get in the know and get some art.

1) Where is the best place to learn about original comic art?

Well there is a one-two punch for original art education 101 and they are and the Comic Art Group on Yahoo. is the world’s foremost online gallery – a virtual museum – for original comic art. Fans can join for free and have their own gallery themselves or pay for premium membership and benefits. The site offers great reference and thousands of great art to admire and study. It helps fans find out what they like and what they want to pursue themselves. There are published covers, splash pages, interior panel pages, poster art, promotional images, commissions, con sketches and more. It goes hand in hand with Yahoo’s Comic Art Group. The Group has daily posts and discussions on comic art, convention reviews, artwork posting and serves as a great Q&A for those looking for info on art. This could be a great place for you to track down a piece of art when you don’t know where it resides.

2) Who sells original art?

Anyone really but some people might be surprised how many specialty dealers there are who just sell original comic art. Many advertise on but you can also Google search the topic and you would most likely see some of these top dealers, all of whom have many great pieces of art ranging for the beginning collector to the seasoned veteran. Check out guys like Albert Moy, Romitaman (Mike Burkey), Spencer Beck (The Artist’s Choice), Mark Hay (Splashpageart), Graphic Collectibles, Coollinesartwork, Anthony Snyder, Tri-State, and Will Gabri-El. You can also find thousands of classified results from collectors selling their art on If you have even more disposable income lying around once you exhaust all of those locations you will also find great art up for auction on some with auction houses like Heritage, ComicLink, and the granddaddy of them all…Ebay! Some artists – like Stephanie Buscema – are even using Etsy to set up their own original art store.

3) What about the artists?

Fans can also contact the artist’s directly and buy the art right from the source. Comic artists are incredibly accessible and usually great to chat with. Fans can find them selling their own work at Comic Conventions (from the big ones like San Diego Comic Con and New York Comic Con down to local shows). This is also a great way to get your first piece of comic art – the con sketch. Simply get in line for your favorite artist and pay a nominal fee for your very own sketch of your choice usually ready before the con weekend is over. You can also search for the artist online as many have their own web sites and art reps dealing their art for them.

4) Where can I read about art?

Well aside from the numerous blogs and web sites devoted to comic news (such as Newsarama and Comic Book Resources) fans can always find artist related news in Wizard Magazine. A good place is also the publisher’s web sites (Marvel, DC, Top Cow, Image, Dark Horse) where they are pros at promoting their own books and creators. The best place to learn about comic art and artist’s is TwoMorrow’s publishing. Check them out at their site and start buying up some of their many books and magazines on the history of the medium. Great magazines like Alter Ego, Jack Kirby Collector, Rough Stuff, Write Now! and more coupled with their many artist biographies and books will give you a great understanding of the industry’s rich history. There are a surprising number of books devoted to the comic book industry and people’s fascination with its highs and lows. If you want a great scientific look I cannot recommend Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics. It is one of the best books a comic or comic art fan can read ever. Period.

5) What about Social Media?

The great equalizer. Everyone is one social media in some form or another and the comics industry has embraced this platform full steam ahead. Many writers, creators, and publishers are on Facebook and there are tons of Comic’s pros and industry professionals on Twitter. A great place to just eaves drop on the conversation and soak up knowledge on the hobby and medium. Best thing is if you don’t know something you can simply ask. It is as easy as that.

So what are you waiting for? You have a lot of work to do to catch up. Move it.

The Dean’s A Jolly Good Fellow: Happy Birthday Gene Colan

In honor of Gene Colan’s birthday today, Panel Surfing will look at one of the all time great artists who can paint with a pencil. Much like the spry Stan Lee who still writes at 85, Gene “The Dean” Colan is still drawing, still teaching, and still visiting with fans at Cons at 84 years young. Maybe the old Marvel Bullpen had a water cooler with elixir from the fountain of youth?

Some of Gene Colan's famous friends

Colan began working during the Golden Age of Comics but would become part of history helping to usher in the Marvel Age of Comics in the “Silver Age” of the early to late 1960’s. Drawing the Sub-Mariner feature in Tales To Astonish, Iron Man in his own title and with a hugely influential run on Daredevil, The Dean became a staple with The House Of Ideas. Colan is famous for his dark and moody shadowy pencil work. His masterful work with light and darkness in telling a story in one of the most dramatic and film noir cinema styles ever to grace the pages of the medium.

Gene has been inducted into the Will Eisner Hall of Fame (in 2005) and even won a 2010 Eisner Award himself recently as part of the creative team that was responsible for Captain America #601 – voted best single issue.

For years collectors have wanted a Kirby and Ditko art was near impossible to find so John Romita art was the gold standard and you could go on and on with high quality blue chip artists and artwork from the formative years of the industry to seek out and acquire for your collection. Gene Colan belongs in this list as well and until recently his work was still very reasonable to obtain for such a pioneer in creating the look of a billion dollar global brand in its infancy.

One of the best Gene Colan collections can be found in the online gallery of art lover from down under – Australia’s own Andrew Van Embden. Andrew has loved Gene Colan’s style for years and has spent that time amassing some gorgeous examples of The Dean’s work.

Daredevil #20 splash by Gene Colan in Andrew Van Embden's CAF gallery

Daredevil #31 splash by Gene Colan in Andrew Van Embden's CAF gallery

Two Great Silver Age Large Art (Twice Up) Daredevil Splashes by The Dean of Comics – Gene Colan!

Gene Colan’s dark moody style also lent itself superbly to one of the most popular non-hero titles Marvel Comics has ever produced – Tomb of Dracula!

Tomb Of Dracula #20 splash by Gene Colan in Andrew Van Embden's CAF gallery

Gene Colan will be appearing at the Comic Art Con in Secaucus, NJ on September 12, 2010. This is the first ever convention devoted exclusively to comic art only. If you are in the Northeast try to stop by and wish The Dean a very Happy Birthday.

Right now is a great time to invest in Gene Colan art as there are still some very high quality pieces to be found. You can search on ebay and on CAF in both art dealers for sale pieces and collector classified. There are many great pieces out there.

Panel Surfing would like to say Happy Birthday Gene & Thanks for the great stories!


European Invasion: The Prelude

Aloha Surfers. The other day i spoke to you about one of the most brilliant comics illustrators today in Marcos Martin. Now I am going to talk a little about one of the best painters in industry today. Gabrielle Dell’Otto has been producing work for Marvel domestically for less than 10 years but he is, in my opinion, the most important painter to work in comics since Alex Ross redefined the proficiency with he and Kurt Busiek’s Marvels. While Martin is Spanish, and Dell’Otto Italian it does bear mentioning that the current crop of some of the best artists working in comics today are European. We’ll examine this in greater detail in a later post.

Dell’Otto began working with both Marvel and DC’s European publishing divisions back in 1998 but his big break in the United States came with the 2002 Brain Michael Bendis mini series Secret War. In Secret War – the warm up for the return of the big Marvel summer event story arc – Dell’Otto provided painted covers and interiors and was instantly noticed for his gritty, eye-popping painting style. It is a twisted, macabre approach that seems to take traditional painting and pull it through the looking-glass a bit. He has a pinch of the Bill Sienkiewicz surrealism with a dash of more fan friendly flowing visuals that lend themselves better to sequential storytelling.

Marvel Heroes by Gabrielle Dell'Otto: I wish I knew where this baby was! Anybody out there know?

He would return to the big event book with covers on Marvel’s relaunching of their cosmic characters in the 2007 Annihilation mini series and satellite character mini’s. His work, while, very affordable for its quality is fast disappearing. His art can be found for sale on and he has one of the most creative web site’s you will ever see from an artist. It is worth spending some time navigating this labyrinth.

The Mysterious Marcos Martin

One of the purposes of Panel Surfing will be to showcase great artists work for both the purposes of fun and investment. On the one hand you can’t deny that Marcos Martin is one of the best artists working in the medium today. His style is in itself fun. But his work also transcends into that realm of highly desirable original artwork. The combination of his throwback charm coupled with the subjects he has worked with so far making his work very sought after. The fact that just a few crumbs of his work have made it into collections makes fans all the more hungry for this superstar’s pieces.

Martin oozes old school brilliance. He has that certain nostalgic House of Ideas “house” style that Stan Lee insisted upon in the bygone days of  ‘ol Marvel. The fact that Martin has already worked on both Dr. Strange (The Oath mini series) and both covers and interior on Amazing Spider-Man (he is currently handling art on the 2 page Stan Lee back up features in ASM) has naturally led folks to compare his style to Steve Ditko. And they’re right. The Spanish artist does have that Ditko quality but with an updated spin. Very fluid and exuberant with modern features.

Marcos Martin cover to Amazing Spider-Man #579

While his work on Amazing Spider-Man is undeniably superb my personal favorites were his collection of alternate covers he did for Marvel’s Timely Anniversary one shots in 2009. One interview he did for Comic Book Resources noted the similarity of tone between his covers and the old World War II era Works Progress Administration (WPA) posters. I love those old posters and his covers for that special project do have that same halcyon quality and maybe that is why they resonate so strongly with me. His work (as well as Chris Samnee who looks to have a similar effect going on with Thor) is work I will be looking to add to my collection in the future.

JSA Splash from the Gallery of Keith Richard

Joker From the Gallery of Vigo Jose y Augustin

Batgirl From the Gallery of Raul San

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